In a world where human activity creates an ecological crisis of such magnitude that whole species become extinct, there are still some animals who are so adaptable and so intelligent that they can learn to survive even in the environmental mess that we make.
They not only survive, but even thrive in our cities, providing for many city-dwellers what might be their only link with the natural world, and for some, almost the only companionship, especially in lockdown conditions.
One such species, here in the UK, is the grey squirrel.
These charming and highly intelligent animals have adapted to live in our parks and gardens and are for many people who live in cities the only diurnal wild mammal whom they see on a regular basis.
Many people find themselves in such circumstances in life that they cannot take on the responsibility for a traditional companion animal (it might be an elderly or a disabled person, or a busy professional, or someone moving from one rented accommodation to another).
Such people can form a friendship with a grey squirrel in a park, a churchyard, a cemetery, a garden, and the friendship becomes very positive and enriching for both parties.
As someone who runs a wildlife rescue unit in London, I regularly hear stories of squirrels pulling people out of depression, helping them over a difficult period in life, generally helping them to cope. As one person, who credits grey squirrels with helping him to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, said to me once, “They should be prescribed on the NHS.”
When something happens to these squirrels, or to their young, a rescue pathway is needed.
At Urban Squirrels, we take in orphaned or injured squirrels, mostly babies, and treat and hand-rear them as necessary. You can read all about our activities, and see endless and endlessly cute pictures, on our website, as well as on our very active social media pages:
https://www.facebook.com/UrbanSquirrelsRescue on Facebook
https://twitter.com/squirrels_urban on Twitter
https://www.instagram.com/urban_squirrels/ on Instagram
Grey squirrels do, however, have a serious public relations problem in this country. They were brought from America in the 19th century. Although they are by now very well-established here and are a good ecological fit, they are sometimes disliked simply because they are an introduced species which, according to some, “do not belong here”. To justify what is essentially a prejudice, grey squirrels are then accused of all sorts of crimes against the ecosystem – crimes that prove, upon further study, to be either hugely exaggerated or falsified altogether.
If you would like to learn more about this subject, please refer to this section of our website: https://www.urbansquirrels.co.uk/for-those-who-do-not-like-grey-squirrels/
Unfortunately, the prejudice against grey squirrels results in wide-spread and cruel (and actually very expensive for the tax-payer) culls of the animal.
At Urban Squirrels, we are constantly campaigning against the killing. Our latest initiative is to try to at least stop the culls in the breeding season, otherwise, when nursing mothers are killed, babies are left to slowly starve to death. Even those who agree with wildlife culls, in general, think that the killing has to at least be humane, and this is far from humane!
If you agree, please consider adding your signature to our Parliamentary Petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/562294
It would only take a few clicks on your part but would provide very valuable evidence of the fact that grey squirrels have friends.
If successful, the petition would save many animal lives. Ideally, we want all killing to stop, but this would be a start. (Please note that the government has already responded saying that they will not change their mind, but this is not the end of the story by any means: if the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the matter will be debated in Parliament.)
Grey squirrels are Mother Nature’s own way of dealing with our ecological mess, we should be grateful that at least some creatures can adapt to live alongside us! Let’s cherish them, not persecute them!
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